Jonathan Feit lived in a residence hall years ago on the campus of State University of New York.
It’s the place where Feit learned of the tragedy that shook the nation Sept. 11, 2001.
Feit, now a student conduct coordinator for Joliet Junior College, had woken up late for class. He was preparing to leave the residence hall when his friend stood in the doorway telling him he wasn’t going anywhere.
“He moved, and I saw the TV in his room,” Feit recalled. “My immediate thought was of my godparents who lived within walking distance of the World Trade Center. I called my godmother immediately and got no answer. I later found that out that my godfather, who had already lived through the 1993 bombing in the World Trade Center—where he worked—was walking in the towers when the first plane hit. He turned around and walked away.”
Feit is one of several Joliet Junior College officials who spoke of their 9/11 experiences after the college’s 13th annual 9/11 ceremony Wednesday.
Eighteen years ago, the nation was the target of a series of terrorist attacks. Now, communities across the nation look to remember and pay tribute to the many lives lost each year. They also reflect on how the aftermath of the tragedy brought people closer together.
The Joliet Junior College program featured, among other things, a moment of silence, prayer, bell ringing, recognition of veterans and a flag raising and lowering.
In his remarks, Joliet Junior College Police Chief Pete Comanda made mention of how not everyone in attendance for the ceremony will remember the events of 9/11.
Much has changed since then, the speakers reiterated.
Michael Thune, a professor and chairman of the English/World Language Department at Joliet Junior College, said he remembers a time when commercial pilots would let children, like himself—at the time—inspect the planes and sit in the cockpit as they prepared to take off.
“(These are) little ways that life has changed since 9/11 that maybe, if you weren’t around back then, you might not know,” he said. “Certainly, it’s affected all of us in profound ways.”
Feit said that commuting in and around New York in the year after the attacks brought its share of challenges.
“Instead of seeing that beautiful skyline that I had seen and was expecting to see for the next four years of coming home and going back to school—that clear beautiful skyline was replaced with smoke,” he said. “You couldn’t see the skyline anymore. It had been decimated.”
Feit said he can’t get rid of the images that come to mind whenever he thinks back to that trip from home to school and vice versa.
“I still remember seeing the countless boards and posters and pictures of everyone looking for their missing loved one,” he said. “It was something that shaped myself, my freshman year and my entire generation.”
The 9/11 ceremony closed with prayer and a song played on pipes and drums.